THE benefits of this summer’s Tour de France snaking past East Lancashire will be felt for ‘years to come’.
That is the verdict of hostel boss Alan Clark, whose accommodation in Earby and Slaidburn has been sold out for months in advance of the Grand Départ on July 5.
With hotels in Yorkshire running out of room, many visitors have chosen to stay in Pendle, Rossendale and the Ribble Valley ahead of 101st edition of the famous race.
Chorley-based Bradley Wiggins, Le Tour’s 2012 champion, and Whalley’s Brian Cookson, the current president of the International Cycling Union, have ensured that East Lancashire is well represented on the sport’s world stage.
In just over six weeks’ time, the first two stages of the race will pass within eight miles of Pendle – where Mr Cookson was formerly the executive director of regeneration for the borough council – and within five miles of Todmorden.
Mr Clark, who runs Earby Youth Hostel in Birch Hall Lane, said: “We have been booked up for months and months.
“It is one of those dates that we knew for sure we would be booked up, and we’ve got visitors coming from all over the country.
“People are prepared to travel from here to the route and a lot of people are staying in this area.”
Mr Clark, whose other hostel in King’s House, Slaidburn, is also full on the weekend Le Tour is in Yorkshire, added: “It is a great chance to showcase Pendle and the Ribble Valley to people. I think we will see the benefit for years to come.”
Stirk House Hotel, in Gisburn, has taken a booking from a group travelling more than 9,000 miles to take in the ride.
A spokeswoman for the A59 venue said: “We have a party coming from Australia with their bikes just for the tour.
“We didn’t do any particular promotion for the cycling, although we did know it was nearby, and we’re fully booked up for the first weekend in July.
“It’s exciting to think that people are travelling across the world to stay here based on our good reviews online.”
Rachel Boothman, who runs Blakey Hall Farm in Red Lane, Colne, said her bed and breakfast was also expecting visitors from abroad. She said: “We’ve got bookings from all over the country and a group from France.
“It has been a boost to trade, but I think it’s just a one-off. A lot of people coming for the race are just doing the two nights and they will be focused on the cycling and that’s it.”
Back in the Ribble Valley, at the heart of the Forest of Bowland, the Inn at Whitewell’s 17th Century guesthouse is also fully booked for the race weekend.
In Rossendale, Parrock Lumb Cottages, in Sharneyford, near Bacup, have received bookings from spectators, including a group from the Isle of Man.
Coun Andy MacNae, Rossendale Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, tourism and leisure, said: “The accommodation providers have done a lot of stuff around the tour. The ones on the east side of the valley are only about eight miles from the route.
“We have been promoting the local cycling with places such as Lee Quarry. We have great facilities and we want people to return.”
Ruth Connor, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, said the group had used lessons learned from the Open Golf tournament in Lytham St Anne’s in 2012 to make the most out of the event.
She said: “We began working on how best to exploit the opportunities of The Grand Départ as soon as it was announced.
“This included raising awareness amongst our businesses and seeking out opportunities to highlight Lancashire’s great cycling offer; one of the best in the UK, providing an unparalleled choice of coast and countryside challenges for riders of all ages and abilities.
“We have also invested in a national VisitEngland campaign which will see Lancashire featured in a special cycling supplement in The Guardian in June.”